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Why Your Teen Should Join Marching Band

Why Your Teen Should Join Marching Band

By Mir Kamin

I never had any illusions that my kids were going to be “cool” or “popular;” I’ve met their parents, and… yeah, the deck was stacked against them from the beginning. Plus I’m a firm believer in the notion of doing what you love, surrounding yourself with a few trusted compadres, and not worrying about the rest of it. This means I shouldn’t have been surprised when marching band first took over our lives and brought along so many fantastic benefits, but I never claimed to be all that swift on the uptake.

If you’re hesitating—or if your teenager is hesitating—don’t. Trust me, marching band is not just the dorky kids in terrible uniforms. I mean, yes, it is dorky kids in terrible uniforms, but it is also so much more than that, and it’s wonderful. (Plus, hey, it turns out many of those dorky kids are hilarious, and/or brilliant, and/or they transform into self-assured young adults over time. And I am not just saying that because I adore my own geeklings; it’s totally true.) Let me take you through the magic that is high school marching band.

1) The uniforms are terrible. As already acknowledged, no one on the planet looks good in a marching uniform. This is not a bad thing. While the cheerleaders are making sure their high ponytails are just so, the girls in the band are simply stuffing their hair into their shakos (yes, the dorky hats have a special name) and forgetting about it. You know who looks stupid in a marching band uniform? That awkward, pimply kid who snorts when he laughs. You know who else looks stupid in a marching band uniform? The drum-playing Ashton Kutcher lookalike all the girls are giggling over. Everyone. Stupid uniforms are the great unifier. The playing field is completely level (pun intended) for the band kids on the fraught topic of looks, and this can be a real relief for kids who are constantly worrying if they measure up.

2) Those terrible uniforms are dry-clean only. In the recent past I’ve have two different friends with sports-playing teens send me pictures of giant mountains of laundry and encroaching piles of smelly pads and other equipment, lamenting the stench and work that is being a sports parent. We have none of that. The uniforms get sent out for cleaning, and for most of the season here in the south, the kids are wearing as little as possible under said uniforms, because it’s a bazillion degrees outside. No laundry monsters for us! (Just, uh, resist the urge to sniff their marching shoes. You’re welcome. Sprinkle some baking soda in them periodically and stay back.)

3) Marching band directors are saints among us. Any high school that has a marching band worth its salt is run by a band director anchored by four guiding principles:
A) A love of music.
B) A love of teenagers.
C) Expectation of complete dedication.
E) Zero tolerance for shenanigans.

I know this is true in our band, and in talking with other band families, we’ve all concluded it’s universally true, because there is no other way a high school music teacher can turn a hundred-odd hormone-addled adolescents into a well-oiled production machine. The marching band director will push your child to excellence in a way that settles for nothing less, but somehow he’ll do it in a way that your kid will love. (Don’t ask me how. I can’t even get this kid to pick up her socks off the floor, so clearly the band director possesses superpowers.) The work that gets done on the field is amazing enough, but it doesn’t end there—this extra set of watchful eyes brooks no transgressions elsewhere, either. There is a code of conduct and it is taken very seriously. Which leads us to…

4)Band kids are the best kids, period. In a lifetime of observing different groups and activities where teens congregate, I can say without reservation that the marching band is absolutely the least homogenous, in the sense that there are kids from every part of the school and all different circumstances. Other activities tend to bring like kids together, and somehow band is different. This will put your kid with some kids they’d never meet, otherwise. But the way in which they’re all alike is that they’re all really good kids. They work hard in school, they work hard in band, and remember how the director doesn’t tolerate shenanigans? They meet that code of conduct or they disappear. That’s it. There’s no nudge-nudge-wink-wink or “I didn’t see that” in band culture the way there is in some team sports. The kids are expected to be awesome at all times. As a result, most of the kids are awesome at all times. No, they don’t stop being teenagers, but there is a family atmosphere and acceptance of all among the band kids that I’ve yet to see anywhere else. It’s a safe place, and I don’t know about your teen, but for my teen, that’s been a godsend.

5) Musicians do better at everything. Okay, maybe not everything, but the benefits of music education are well-documented. Being in marching band gives your teen everything from a leg up on the SATs to a decreased chance of using drugs. Trust me, band kids don’t have time for any of that, anyway. Ever heard the saying that a busy teenager is a happy teenager? Band kids are busy.

6) Marching band is great exercise for the exercise-averse. We’re not a family of obese couch potatoes, but neither are we particularly sporty and outdoorsy. I don’t know if you know this, but marching around in 100+ degree weather is really, really hard. It requires a great deal of physical stamina, and it’s often requiring it of kids who would rather chew off their own arms than run laps. Know what’s awesome? The fact that they’re concentrating on their music totally distracts those kids from the fact that they’re getting a workout.

7) The marching band usually gets to go on awesome trips. Sure, other teams get to travel, too, but our band has gone to some amazing places and events, and then they’re there with this take-no-crap band director and a group of good kids, which means peace of mind.

8) Two words: Band Camp. The greatness that is the periodic, dead-serious interjection of, “This one time? At Band Camp?” into everyday conversation cannot be overstated. Or maybe that’s just our family, but really, it never stops being funny.

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About the Author

Mir Kamin

Mir Kamin began writing about her life online over a decade ago, back when she was a divorced mom trying to raise two regular little kids and figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up. Now ...

Mir Kamin began writing about her life online over a decade ago, back when she was a divorced mom trying to raise two regular little kids and figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up. Now her life looks very different than it did back then: Those little kids turned into anything-but-regular teenagers, she is remarried, and somehow she’s become one of those people who talks to her dogs in a high-pitched baby voice. Along the way she’s continued chronicling the everyday at Woulda Coulda Shoulda, plus she’s bringing you daily bargain therapy at Want Not. The good news is that Mir grew up and became a writer and she still really likes hanging out with her kids; the bad news is that her hair is a lot grayer than it used to be.

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April U
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April U

Yes! All of that. 🙂 Similar things can be said for swing/show choir too.

Isabel Kallman
Admin

high five!

Jordan
Guest
Jordan

ummmm for some reason a lot of that offended me… i look amazing in my marching band uniform (i feel like superman in mine) and marching band is the best sport known to man… thank u that is all..

nora
Guest

Thanks! As a band director and mom, I agree. I can’t figure out a place other than a HS music class where your kid, or mine, would be better cared for and valued. In 4 years of high school it will be my best investment in my child.

Jenny
Guest
Jenny

I’m a band director (and a mom) and this article just made my day. Thank you.

Sabrina
Guest

I was in marching band in high school and LOVED it.  I also went to band camp.  I will say that plenty of cool kids were also in band (there were over 180 people in our marching band) because we took cool trips– my Senior year we went to IRELAND and the only way you got to do the cool stuff was to suffer through the freezing cold football games.  Oh, and also our school mascot was a Scottish dude and our uniforms were real kilts and such and so the school had them cleaned (I’m sure we paid a… Read more »

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[…] to announce that I’ve joined the team over at Alphamom! My first piece is up, and it’s all about the magic that is marching band. I’ll be writing weekly about various topics related to raising teenagers who are not, shall […]

Jen Merrill
Guest

My dear sweet Mir, I love you for this post. Well, for a lot of your posts, but this one…you nailed it. My husband and I are both band geeks for life (both former band directors; we used up our sainthood abilities early), and it breaks our hearts that neither boy wants to be in band. WE know the awesome benefits, but they…sniff…
I’m going to share the heck out of this post, and send it to AMP (Association of Music Parents); they’ll love it. 😀

AJ
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AJ

I’m going to be in my last year of marching band next year, and my friend was in a drum core…uniforms still looked terrible. And you’re wrong about the not noticing the workout as we can all feel it very acutely. Our uniform is 99% wool and is about 2mm thick. The easiest way to tell we’re getting a workout is when you’re short of breath about 2 minutes into a parade and it’s already hurting to keep your euphonium held up. I still feel sorry for those who play the susaphone, but at least it’s on your shoulder. Oh well,… Read more »

js
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js

YAY! More you! I love reading your blog and I can’t wait to see what you’ve got in store for us on alphamom. We’re entering the Middle School universe now but this is in my “Good to Know” file for the future. There are so many more topics I am interested in hearing about from you, like how you handle discipline with a blended family. Can’t wait to see what’s next!

Liz
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Liz

Great to see you contributing here! My husband and I met at band camp (in college! super band nerds, we were/are), and I do hope to get to be a band parent one day, for all the reasons you suggest here.

kakaty
Guest
kakaty

A 4-year band geek here and I agree with everything you say except the band director part. Our director was a raving lunatic and complete jerk, yet I loved it anyway because all of my best friends were in band. We were a “show band” and went to marching competitions all over the place and got to march at Disney World twice. Our local hs band just got back from a spring break trip to Turkey (2 years ago it was Switzerland)!  One other thing, we moved to the town were I went to hs about 2 months before my… Read more »

magpie
Guest

i have fond memories of marching band – though some of them are definitely of the shenanigans variety. like when the drum section used to switch to 5/4 – which is kind of hard to march to. and when we used to cheer: hit ’em in the nose / hit ’em in the head / we want blood / red red red.  yup, good times.

also, that feather duster on the top of the head? it’s called a panache.

Justin
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Justin

This is a great comment. Your “shenanigans” are wonderful. If that was the worst of them I’m betting most parents would be fully behind the troublemaking.

Amy
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Amy

Our band had a cheer that went “kill, kill, blood makes the grass grow… hemoglobin, hemoglobin, we want blood”. So yeah, band shenanigans. 

Patricia
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Patricia

I am waiting for the first spawn to get old enough! This just reconfirms that my instincts are correct. Go Marching Band! (I was a yearbook nerd myself).

RuthWells
Guest

Congrats on the new gig, Mir!

Jeff NIckerson
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Jeff NIckerson

I enjoyed reading your article. I have two children that are involved in marching band programs. Would you be apposed if I printed this article to share with my school district. We are facing budget cuts in these difficult financial times and the Music program is always on the chopping block.

Isabel Kallman
Admin

Hi Jeff, Not opposed to you reprinting this article and physically distributing it if there’s appropriate attribution (author name & website info) and it’s for non-commercial/educational purposes (sorry, I need to be clear). Also, it’s needs to be clear in your distribution with a small paragraph that it cannot be republished including digitally, etc. If you want to share digitally, please use this link: https://alphamom.com/parenting/big-kid/why-your-teen-should-join-school-marching-band/

Happy to hear that you found Mir’s post helpful. She’s a thoughtful one!

Jason
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Jason

I HATE it at the beginning.  But once you get past the stereotypes (which are not always true) and the uniforms…once you have scared any self conscious child away from the activity, you get into some good stuff. Sure, within the activity we acknowledge a lot of that about not being cool, being dorky, etc.  But a lot of it is “inside joke” material. But, if we are trying to recruit why put it out there like that? Anyways, all depends on the school. I’ve got some “cool” kids in my band program, and I would argue that our kids… Read more »

Jason
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Jason

I would LOVE to share the 2nd half of this article with my band students, families, and the greater community.  I would also love to share it with families of students I am trying to recruit into the high school band program.  Unfortunately, I REFUSE to advertise the 1st half of this article with anyone.

Nelson's Mama
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Nelson's Mama

I’m a former band geek and now my youngest is marching her way through high school. 🙂  

Will say her experience is much more structured than mine though, what with leadership council, required private lessons, band fees – and those uniforms?  They aren’t EVEN allowed to come home, required shirts and shorts to wear UNDER them….think my kid is in the military 🙂

JOhn
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JOhn

As an aged-out band parent–we went through ten years with three daughters–we really miss it, and things have changed too much with the band we were with to work on an “emeritus” basis. But that said, our director was, to put it kindly, a tyrant. We parents would often flinch when we overheard some of what was being said to the kids. But the kids were the biggest supporters of the man. And speaking of overhearing….on one band trip I heard one of our kids (and probably one of our, well, most likely to get in trouble) say, “Look at… Read more »

Katie
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Katie

I was in band starting in fourth grade and stayed with it for 5 football seasons in college…we never went anywhere exotic in all those years, but we had paid trips to Disneyworld (HS and college) I went to every single college football game, and I went to 4 major bowl games and was paid a per diem to do it! Bourbon street on New Years Eve with my band friends plus who knows how many other fans? Can’t get much better than that!!!

Laura
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Laura

YAY! So glad you wrote this. As a former band geek (orc-dork, pick your poison), I can say those years were some of those most fun. It’s challenging and rewarding. Yes it’s hot and gross but the trips, the friends, and playing some fun music make it totally worth it. There’s a great feeling you have when standing on the 50 yard line blasting “Mars” by Holst out of your horn. It’s a GOOD feeling! I wouldn’t trade those years for anything.

Barbara
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Barbara

Band geeks rule! Our marching band was the talk of the town for years, we travelled the world & had amazing times. It really takes a village, though – literally. The whole town shelled out for fund raisers year-round.

Selfish Mom
Guest

I really really love this post. And yes, my son is in the marching band. 😀

Kristen
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Kristen

I was a band geek a million years ago and agree with most of this. I was in the best shape of my life when I was in marching band (sadly) and had the best arms you can imagine. And we got to go to Orlando to march in the Rose Bowl parade. A lot of the friends that I made in high school marching band are still friends today. Unfortunately, my daughter is much more sports-oriented where there is so much more individual competition.

Julianne
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Julianne

You may have been lost. The Rose Bowl parade is in Pasadena, CA. Maybe you went to Disney Land. While you were there – confusing it with Orlando.
I love my 2 band geeks. The band kids are the best, and like someone mentioned above, by first day of school Freshman year, you know 200 kids.

The Deez
Guest

The ONE thing that I’m sad my kids will miss out on because of being homeschooled is the fact that they won’t be in marching band. I was a band dork from sixth grade on and it was awesome!

Ashley
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Ashley

Can your kids join your public school’s band program?  One of my band-friends in high school was actually home-schooled and came just for rehearsals.

Elle
Guest
Elle

YES! My husband and I met in our high school marching band! Looking back at pictures, I’m still impressed he thought I was cute in that uniform. 😉

We’re already planning on our (as-of-yet non-existent) children carrying on the family marching band geek tradition. I’d love to see a future post with any words of wisdom on how to subtly (but successfully) nudge young kids down a path that leads to the high school marching band holy land.

Lansing Dimon
Guest
Lansing Dimon

Great article!  Thanks – sharing!  As a band director, I’ll also point out some other activities aligned with marching band that are similar, some of which are school related and others that aren’t.  To me, any school that has choir, orchestra, and a drama/musical club affords similar benefits.  It’s everything you said, PLUS, as I mention to my students and parents… it’s putting a value on a quality work ethic – something that is missing from much of the world now where we google, text, facebook and twitter through our daily lives for information.  Developing a work ethic is a… Read more »

Andy
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Andy

Incredible article!!  I completely agree and will take it a step further.  I participated in high school and college marching band, and have, for the better part of the last 20 years been neck-deep in senior/”all-age” drum & bugle corps, and can say that the atmosphere, dedication to excellence and love of the marching musical activity does not end when you walk across a stage and receive a diploma.  I’ve spent the last several years living, believing and encouraging people to continue in the marching activity if they have the opportunity.  It’s not just for the young!  Keep playing, keep… Read more »

Rachel
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Rachel

As a former marching band geek, I love this article! In my school, many of the band kids also tended to be the ones in the AP classes and graduating in the top 10%. We didn’t get to take too many cool trips though. 🙁

diane
Guest
diane

Geeks unite!! I would never have made it through high school without band. There was a special friendship formed, and those folks are among the few from my high school I remember fondly and still consider friends. Look, we all went to Daytona Beach at age SIXTEEN to participate in the Disney main street parade (sidebar: ON A BUS–god, I could NOT do that now. Bless those chaperones) and I don’t remember a single one of us getting into any trouble. We just…had fun together, ya know? In silly, legal ways. There was a huge band alumni reunion last fall… Read more »

Eric Maher
Guest
Eric Maher

I am eternally grateful for marching band. When I arrived at college, we went to a week of “band camp” before regular classes started, and after that one week, I basically had 250 friends. That was decades ago, and I still talk to many of them. I still miss creating music in a group.

Sue Buchanan
Guest
Sue Buchanan

Eric, there are opportunities for adults, too! I was in marching band in grade & HS, concert band for 2 years in college. We have moved 9 times, and I’ve been in 7 community bands (founding member of 3) plus church groups and pit orchestras. I have played in community bands for much of 40 years now. Haven’t marched again, but have played on parade floats & in lots of concerts.The benefits of music – remembering all the stuff that came so easily in HS, meeting more people of other generations and suburbs, keeping active – applies to adults too!

Debbie
Guest
Debbie

Our marching band has uniforms that are washable. They get washed by the washer moms after every single wearing. I can’t imagine not washing often. They get so smelly! And that exercise? My son lost 20 lbs his first season of marching band! My second son did the same when he joined as well.

Fozzie
Guest
Fozzie

In honor of your blog post, I’ve used my high school marching band knickname. It was given to me by a friend and I embraced it proudly. It’s still scrawled on the inside of my trombone locker in the band room after 25 years. I can’t agree with you enough. I do although want to add one other bonus and that’s college. College can be a very scary time for students, and parents, but when you show up at band camp your freshman year of college and meet the other 75 FRESHMAN on day one, and then the other 200+… Read more »

Julie
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Julie

As a former band geek, and mom to 3 Bandos as we call them now, you are spot on! My sons have graduated and gone on to college but there band friends are near and dear to their hearts! The only “real” friends from HS that I still keep in contact with are my band buddies! This made my day! Bandos RULE!!!and we do go great paces. Out band is going to Disney in a few weeks to march down Main St. How awesome is that!

Sheila
Guest
Sheila

My daughter’s first overnight camp experience will be Music Camp, this June. She is in choir, but there’s a band contingent there as well. I would love to regale her with stories of “This one time? At Band Camp?” but she has not seen the movie and besides, this post outlines perfectly why I am not concerned at all about any funny business happening. These kids are smart, goofy, kind (usually all three) and I know they will arrive to camp focused and be kept on track by their excellent instructors. Viva la musica!

Brett Fortnam
Guest
Brett Fortnam

As a bandmember throughout high school and college, everything here is true except the part about shenanigans. Some directors may not tolerate it, but that just means we get better at not getting caught. The amount of *nudge nudge wink wink* is just as high on the field as it is in the dugout (I’ve spent a lot of time there too). That’s not a bad thing at all. It’s one of the reasons I have enjoyed my band career. All of the *nudge nudge wink wink* happens with my closest friends who are pulling the same shenanigans when the… Read more »

Gloria
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Gloria

My daughters were all in band from the 5th grade on up to marching band in high school, plus nephews, nieces, and close friends kids. I was a band parent for ten years and the was the most awesome times we had together as a family because where they went, we went whether it was for football, competitions, etc. It was a great and most memorable time of me and my kids lifes.

Erik
Guest
Erik

At my 20 year H.S. reunion. There was one group who seemed the tightest. They got up and called “everyone from band, (Stragglers) lets take a photo!!” Wow. These adults were clearly the least inhibited and joyous bunch of all of us. Our band, (marching) sustained a struggling football team and went from 80 to 300 in my 4 years in H.S. They’re a crazy marching/dancing bunch that the community rallied behind because they were unorthodox in their performance. Reedley High School Pirate Marching Band.

Tonya
Guest
Tonya

I shared this with my teenagers band director. I find t to be true and on point with marching band.

Michele
Guest

I was both in the color guard AND the marching band. Tall flags, sabres, and the section leader of the pit percussion. That means that I can twirl a flag, toss a sword, play the drums, play the marimba. (You don’t want to compete against me on Rock Band. I’m just sayin’.) If I hear the sound of some marches from afar or in a parade? The hairs go up on my arms, and there’s an instinct to march in time. And did I mention 4 years of band camp? In all seriousness, I sincerely and truly believe the marching… Read more »

Becky
Guest
Becky

Proud band geek here! I was in drum corps too (go Jersey Surf!!). Getting through high school would have been SO much harder without band. I also had the privilege of teaching marching band while I was in college. I can only hope that I gave those kids some of the experience that I had. And for added fun, we’re actually having a reunion of my high school marching band this summer…15 years worth of middle aged former band geeks in one room. I have a feeling there will be shenanigans afoot *wink wink

Jan
Guest
Jan

Agree with all except canonizing the band directors – coming from Indiana – where they take their marching bands serious to the extreme, like competitions every weekend in the fall – many of the band directors seem to forget that technically band is just another class – albeit one that takes more hours a week than the rest combined – and most of these kids will not be music majors; the rest of the piece is very accurate; our son got involved in his university band where it became fun again – main purpose to entertain at football games and… Read more »

Celeste
Guest
Celeste

Mir, I’m tearing up a little here. I am from such a small town, we didn’t have football or marching band. I wasn’t at all prepared for my kid being in marching band. I didn’t think he’d make it the first year, 100 pounds of boy hauling around 30 or 40 pounds of sousaphone. But he loved it, made some great friends, and I was thrilled. It’s a joy to watch the kids out there, whether they’re marching or just dancing on the sidelines while they wait to perform. Now he’s about to graduate and he’s going to college to… Read more »

Julie
Guest
Julie

I couldn’t have said it better myself!! What most people don’t know about bands are the hard work and dedication of its director, and that shows in EVERY member. The pride of a halftime show, after the long hours of 3 a days a band camp, or a “1” at a competition. There is no feeling like it.

myspecialtyisclarineting
Guest
myspecialtyisclarineting

Hi! I came across this post via a link on tumblr (posted by a marching band blog), and since I’ve taken the time to read it, I figured I’d respond. First off, I’d like to clarify that I’m not from the South (as I infer you are based on references made in this post), but from the West, so my experience with marching band may be drastically different than yours. Second, I’d like to say that although there are some points I disagree with, overall I find this to be a refreshing reminder that the art of marching hasn’t totally… Read more »

Patti
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Patti

I was in band in Jr. High, High School, and college. My high school band was small, but very good. When you are in a small band, it’s harder to convince others to join, or at least it seemed that way. My band director was my biggest hero and still is. We talk often on Facebook. Although I had lots of “cool” friends in high school, I still felt like my band friends were the closest. Then I went to college and while in band, concert choir, and show choir, got class favorite and homecoming queen. Homecoming queen? I felt… Read more »

Jo Anne
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Jo Anne

If the band participates in marching competitions, you have hundreds or thousands of teens spending Friday nights and all day (7am-midnight) Saturdays with a large group of other teens+ parents+other adults. I believe that’s the only time that happens consistently.

Sam Signorelli
Guest
Sam Signorelli

After 4 years in HS marching band (Monte Vista, Spring Valley, CA, 78-81), 3 in college (San Diego State, 81-83), then — over a 3 year period — 8 drum corps (84 Blue Devils, Concord CA — 86 Dagenham Crusaders, Dagenham, England — 87 Empire Statesmen, Rochester, NY — 02-06 SoCal Dream, Irvine, CA), I can safely say being int he marching arts was one of the best things to ever happen to me.

Marlie
Guest
Marlie

My parents, thank God, knew all of this. My parents actually moved to a school district where they heard there was an amazing band program. Needless to say, band was required. And i’m so glad. My parents told me that I had to play through high school, but it was my choice in college. I loved it so much. my best friends were in band, my best memories were at competitions or on band trips. i loved playing music with people. I got band nerd of the year my senior year, haha. quite an honor. but anyways! i’m in college… Read more »

Perla S.
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Perla S.

Let’s not forget that some of these “band” kids go out there and represent in DCI! 😉 more discipline, more life experiences, more friends, awesome memories! Great way to stay in shape, whilst doing what you love!

Ladybug Crossing
Guest
Ladybug Crossing

Thank you! This is my last year as a HS band parent and uniform mom. Band has been absolutely amazing for my kids. We are currently fighting to save our middle school music program… Ah a life without music is unacceptable. Thanks again!
LBC

liss
Guest
liss

I met my husband 22 years ago at band camp. I was almost 16 at the time, he was 14. I had gotten into band 4+ years earlier wanting to be in the marching band when I got to high school, found out at the beginning of that school year that our high school’s marching band had disbanded due to funding. I was crushed but stayed on in band. Besides meeting my husband, band was a great place to figure out who I was besides learning some amazing skills and a great love of music. 🙂

Chloe
Guest
Chloe

Oh my gosh yes!! I was a band kid in High School. I’m a freshman in college now and I didn’t do band this year. You bet I’m doing it next year! For real, band makes you do better in school. I am no not motivated now and it’s because band makes you strive to be the best at everything you do. Man, she said it so perfectly. Band kids never know how to exactly explain band. It is really a safe place and gives you a sense of belonging and acceptance.